Do We Worry Too Much About Canon?

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One of the most frequently discussed items among Star Wars fans is canon.  Is this canon? Is that canon?  It’s been a point of debate for fans, but it has only intensified since Lucasfilm to restarted the canon and moved the expanded universe to Legends.  Newer fans now often wonder if a story is worth reading if it’s not canon.

We use this word a lot, canon.  But what does it actually mean?  The dictionary definition is “a collection or list of work that is accepted as genuine.”  Fandom defines canon as another word for official.  These stories “matter.”

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The Lucasfilm Story Group was created to keep track of the Star Wars canon.  It’s unclear if they are the final say-so for canon-ocity or not, but outward appearances suggest they are.  So, of course, fans are constantly asking Story Group members like Pablo Hidalgo and Leland Chee if any specific item is canon or not.  If you’ve ever looked at Pablo’s twitter mentions you know he has the patience of a saint.

The idea of canon is not anything unique to Star Wars.  It’s a concept that has existed since humanity started telling stories.  With the rise of multimedia franchises, the question has been pushed to the forefront of geek debates.  Star Wars fans are a passionate group and we have equally passionate discussions about every piece of minutia about our favorite franchise.

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For a storyteller, the idea of canon can be much simpler.  It basically boils down to what does the character know and is it important to the story that this character knows something.  This is an idea that has been stressed by the Story Group.  It is less of looking at the canon as a checklist of items and more about what is important and relevant to the story being told.  It’s not a black and white concept.  Things are always shifting and changing.

Comparing the idea of canon to our own history.  Scholars have debated aspects of our history for centuries.  Ideas are lost to time, sometimes they are rediscovered and it changes what we thought we knew of the world.  If we have these same debates and discussions over events that actually happened, how much more complicated does it get for a fictional universe?

A canon cannon
A canon cannon

I’m a part of the fan community.  I see the discussions taking place.  I’ve taken part in many of them.  When discussing something like canon and how it relates to our theories and ideas about the saga and where it’s going, it can be very easy to get locked in and miss the bigger picture.  We could see the canon forest so much clearer if it weren’t for all these trees in the way.

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